George Cousineau Pedal Harp, ca. 1770

Value (2017) | $15,000 Retail
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GUEST:
I bought it from the Jack Palance estate. I just kind of fell in love with it I saw it, and thought the price was right, that, you know, they weren't overly interested in it, and to me, it was something struck me different.

APPRAISER:
But you don't play harp, you don't...

GUEST:
No, I don't play harp.

APPRAISER:
You told me you play guitar.

GUEST:
A little bit.

APPRAISER:
Jack Palance, obviously, was a very famous movie actor, and I did not know that he collected musical instruments.

GUEST:
No, he had other instruments. He had a beautiful grand piano. A Steinway grand piano.

APPRAISER:
Okay, so he was an enthusiast at some level.

GUEST:
He was an enthusiast. He had a home up in Drums, Pennsylvania. He was a very avid collector.

APPRAISER:
When did you think this was made?

GUEST:
My paperwork said it was a 19th century harp, and the only ones I can see that look familiar to that, and tiny, and small, I thought probably that's correct.

APPRAISER:
Actually, this is an 18th century harp, made, I think, about 1770 in Paris, and I think the maker is George Cousineau. Cousineau was well known as a harp-maker, maker of pedal harps, and you can see the pedals. It's got seven, but two are missing. And do you have any of the other pedals?

GUEST:
Yes, I do.

APPRAISER:
Okay, that's good. And these windows which show you the mechanism inside were a specialty of George Cousineau. That's how I think it's by him. Most of his harps have this acanthus decoration here and down at the base, and most of them are gone. These are very fragile instruments; this one actually survived rather well, except for a few minor issues. One, the columns warped dramatically because of all the pressure, and the more they warp, the less playable they are, because these strings, which go through these little hooks, are poorly positioned on the hooks after a while, so you can't actually adjust the harp very well when they're this warped. And these hooks are actuated by these pedals, and they pull the string to sharpen the string. This decoration is unbelievably intact. It's one of the best I've seen. It's full of wonderful painted various designs, musical trophies. You've got a lute, drum, trumpets. You've got a couple lyres with trumpets. Usually, these soundboards crack up and literally fall to pieces, and also, from all the pressure, they bow up, they bow forward, and break right down the middle. So, this is incredibly intact. The Paris harps of the period were the revered harps. Marie Antoinette played a harp of this type, very similar to this, by a similar maker. And I notice, also, it's got the label from the Jack Palance auction.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
Which I don't think adds to the value, particularly. But it's a stunning harp.

GUEST:
Yeah, isn't it beautiful?

APPRAISER:
It's really one of the best I've seen.

GUEST:
Thank you.

APPRAISER:
The strings are gut strings. You don't want to restring this with modern strings, you don't want to tighten up the strings because that might break the soundboard. There's nothing that you really need to do to this harp. Not missing any big pieces, which, usually, they are.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
And I think this harp, even though it's non-functional, and should never be made functional, retail value at about $15,000, perhaps a little bit more. Let's call it $15,000.

GUEST:
Wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Vintage Instruments, Inc.
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2017)
$15,000 Retail
Event
Harrisburg, PA (June 03, 2017)
Form
Harp
Material
Gut , Wood

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